Sending money to a Federal Inmate
Recently, we shared several stories about prison life with our readers. Since that time, several followers of MV have confidentially contacted us to talk about the difficulty with staying in contact with a loved one in jail, such as friend, partner, family member, etc.
The major question people had was how they could send money to someone they care about with the goal of replenishing their commissary accounts. Given interest in the topic, we decided to do some research and post our findings here.
The inner workings of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the United States can be difficult to navigate. This is especially stressful during the holidays or on special occasions when you want to show a loved one that you are still thinking about them.
Sending money to a federal inmate, you care about need not be a frustrating process. There are three ways the United States government accepts funds on behalf of inmates: through the United States Postal System, Western Union, and Moneygram.
For all three, you'll need to know the inmate’s full legal name and registration number. For Western Union and Moneygram, you'll also need to know the correctional facility they are located at.
If time is not a concern, the United States Postal System is the easiest and cheapest way. You will need to convert the funds into a money order first: this can be done for a small fee at any post office or banking institution.
Once you have your money order in hand, you will want to mail it to the following address:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
[Inmate’s Registration Number]
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
To make sure the money is deposited into the correct account, it is a good idea to put the inmate’s full name and registration number on the money order as well as the envelope.
If the funds need to get to the inmate as soon as possible, you will need to send it via electronically. This can be a little trickier. If you are close to a Western Union agent, you can go directly to them and they will help you with the process.
Bear in mind you will need to provide the inmate’s correctional facility to them.
If an agent is too far away, or you would prefer going through the process yourself, you can go through the Western Union website. This is undoubtedly the fastest way to send money directly from you to your loved one.
You will begin by going to the Western Union's website, and selecting “Quick Collect” under the menu “Products and Services.” Scroll down and click on the button that says “Send Online Now.” At this point, existing users should log in, and first-time users should create an account.
Under the heading “Choose your payment type and biller” select “Correctional Facility.” There will be a select box: select the facility that the inmate is presently housed at, and then click on “Continue.”
Enter the payment amount, and select “Continue” again.
This is important: under account number, you will want to enter the inmate’s account number followed by their last name, with no spaces in between, e.g., “999999Smith.” If you do this part incorrectly, it will give you the default error message but not tell you why your payment did not go through.
Select or enter your payment information and click on “Continue” once more. You may now review all of the data before finally sending your payment.
However you choose to send payment to your loved one, it is advisable to check with them immediately afterward to let them know that the money is coming. This way, they can let you know if something does go wrong.
Inmates are notified once the money hits their account and how soon it will be available for spending at their discretion. If your loved one is in a private contract facility, see this page and click on the correctional facility they are being held. Follow the directions as stated.
Federal Bureau of Prisons